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    Boris Johnson, a leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Party, arrives at offices in central in London, Britain, July 19, 2019

    Planes, Trains and Pensioner Pains: What is in Boris Johnson’s In-Tray?

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    Boris Johnson  has taken over as Prime Minister, having been chosen by a majority of Conservative Party members as their new leader. His priority is to push through Brexit by 31 October but what other tough decisions has he got to make?

    Boris Johnson made it clear in his first speech as Prime Minister on Thursday, 25 July, he wants to dispel the “negativity” around Britain and “talk up” the country, especially its universities, scientists and entrepreneurs.

    He devoted large parts of his speech to advances in technology and there were echoes of Harold Wilson’s infamous 1963 speech where he said a “new Britain” would be forged in the “white heat” of the “scientific revolution”.

    ​But he will find the in-tray in the office he has taken over from Theresa May full of thorny problems which the previous prime minister had been putting on the back burner as she focused on Brexit.

    Transport

    Mr Johnson has been highly sceptical of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway for some time and the fact that it is due to pass through, or under, his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency does not make it any more palatable.

    He has expressed "anxieties about the business case" for the new railway between London and Birmingham, which is due to be followed by a second phase speeding up transport to northern England.

    ​Last weekend it was reported the £56 billion budget for HS2 could go as high as £86 billion.

    Opponents of HS2 hope he will cancel the project but by doing so he would not only land the government with a hefty compensation claim from HS2 Limited but would also undermine his own vision of Britain - as set out in his speech - as a high tech country with first class infrastructure.

    Another project which Mr Johnson has long opposed - and is also unpopular in his Uxbridge constituency - is the third runway at Heathrow airport.

    When he was Mayor of London he famously commissioned consultants to draw up a hare-brained scheme for a brand new airport to be built on reclaimed land in the Thames estuary, which was dubbed Boris Island.

    The four-runway airport, which would have cost £80 billion, never got off the drawing board and Mr Johnson is unlikely to revive it.

    Mr Johnson also promised to lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway, ironically echoing Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, whose own Hayes and Harlington constituency is even more badly affected by the third runway than Mr Johnson’s.

    ​But the momentum behind the third runway is virtually unstoppable and Mr Johnson is not expected to stand in its way, literally or politically.

    In his first speech in Parliament he namechecked electric cars and even electric planes, which he said British inventors were working on.

    So perhaps expect a big push on more electric vehicle charging points and maybe more encouragement for autonomous vehicles.

    Social Care

    Successive governments - both Labour and Conservative - have kicked into the long grass the issue of adult social care.

    But the cost of an increasingly ageing population is dragging down local councils, who will soon find they are financially unable to do anything apart from providing social care for their senior citizens.

    ​Council chiefs and opposition politicians have been crying out for a green paper on adult social care but Theresa May’s government sat on its hands, knowing any legislation to fix the problem in the long-term was going to contain solutions which would be politically unpopular.

    Mr Johnson is thought to be keen on the idea of taxing people over 40 to pay for their old age. 

    But he will know that such an idea could well lose a lot of votes at a General Election.

    Schools

    Mr Johnson has promised to increase state school funding to £5,000 per pupil but that would only provide an extra £50 million, not enough to stave off the cuts which many schools face.

    In reality schools need an injection of £5 billion and new Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will no doubt be hoping for more generosity from the Treasury under Mr Johnson, who seems keen to jettison the policy of austerity which marked the rule of David Cameron and Theresa May.

    Foreign Affairs

    The most pressing issue for the former Foreign Secretary is the situation in the Persian Gulf, where Iran is throwing its weight around in the Straits of Hormuz.

    The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif was quick to congratulate Mr Johnson on Wednesday and stressed that Iran was not seeking “confrontation”.

    Before he was sacked as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt had set up plans for a Europe-based convoy system for British and European oil tankers in the Gulf.

    The task of following through diplomatically falls now to his successor, Dominic Raab, who has little foreign affairs experience but is softly spoken and not gaffe-prone like his boss, the Prime Minister.

    Mr Johnson, who was born in New York, will have his hands full with Brexit but he is no doubt champing at the bit to travel to Washington and meet up with President Trump, who shares a similar world view in many regards.

    But Mr Johnson is unlikely to seek any thaw in relations with Russia, which he has long regarded with barely concealed hostility.

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    pension, education, social well-being, foreign policy, Boris Johnson, United Kingdom
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